Recently, I took a road trip to the great state of Texas with my parents. We traveled to my hometown of Houston, the charming town of Gruene, and one of my favorite places to visit, Austin. Texas is roughly a 16 to 18 hour drive from the Windy City, but it’s well worth the trip. I had an incredible time experiencing the culture, food, and entertainment with my family.
First Stop: Austin
Any Chicagoan looking for a Southern twist on a buzzing city vibe has to visit Austin — the first stop on my Texas tour. It's a beautiful town with rolling hills and a great music and food scene. We stayed at the Four Seasons Austin and felt like we stepped into a private oasis in the heart of downtown.
The hotel's restaurant, Ciclo, serves incredible Latin-inspired food, including a tomahawk steak cooked tableside, a sight to see and the perfect Instagram moment. This modern Texas kitchen is home to a menu that changes seasonally, serving everything from smoked meats to inventive cocktails.
While in Austin, we stopped at one of our favorite places, The County Line, for a delicious Texas-style BBQ. They specialize in a variety of classic and family-style all-you-can-eat options. It's located on the river and was a great way to take in another side of the city.
Next Stop: Gruene
From Austin, we hopped over to Gruene, a small charming Texas town known for its historic district and the oldest dance hall in Texas! As Chicagoans, we have a deep appreciation for water as well, so Gruene was the perfect home away from home as it sits on the beautiful Guadalupe River.
We stayed at the Gruene Mansion Inn, one of the first buildings in town, built around 1872. This place epitomizes charm, a restored building with a Victorian flair. My room had so much character, filled with Texas allure, gorgeous vintage decor, and a prime view of the Guadalupe River.
For dinner, we stopped off at the Gristmill. The Gristmill maintains a hearty casual dining menu with popular South Texas dishes like Chicken Fried Steak, unique flavors like Bronzed Catfish, and a robust selection of juicy steaks.
If you are staying in Gruene, you must take in a show or stroll around the dance floor at the Gruene Dance Hall, or in warmer months, try kayaking and tubing on the river.
Last Stop: Houston
It was hard to leave Gruene, but Houston was calling! Houston is known for its diverse food scene, and a recently opened hotspot, The Blind Goat, a must-visit Texas-centric restaurant for food lovers — and we all know how we Chicagoans love to eat.
Created by MasterChef winner and James Beard Award Semifinalist Christine Ha, The Blind Goat's menu features modern spins on Vietnamese cuisine. They also use a local delicacy, crawfish, in some of their recipes. It's easily one of my new favorite restaurants in Houston.
One stop we made in Houston that I would love to recommend was a jazz concert at the Houston Symphony. Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Chris Botti played three special performances at the symphony. Seeing Botti live was excellent, and with a series of concerts and events year-round, there is always something to look forward to and enjoy in the Houston music scene.
Before heading out, we ate breakfast at the fabulous Dandelion Cafe in Bellaire. A proud black and women-owned business, they serve elevated breakfast and lunch options and offer market fresh goods to take with you. Check out weekday specials like Mimosa Monday or Hump Day HotCakes. You can go right with all of their sweet and savory options.
This trip through Texas was larger than life. As a Chicagoan, you will feel right at home in all three destinations, with many fantastic places to eat and rest. Check out Visit Houston, Travel Texas, and Four Seasons Austin for more information on lodging or dining options.
And please follow me at Let's Go with Catie Keogh for more travel information. Happy travels y'all!
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